I observe and I appreciate. It is what I do, it is who I am. The noises of the everyday scream out to me: begging to be heard, to be scrutinised, recorded, understood. I see things and feel the anxiety of separation, moments shared are moments lived and moments that become my own. Of course my experience of the moment as an observer is different to those I observe but it is a moment nonetheless and a moment I saviour.
The ‘click clack’ of my walkman as the cassette tape enters is a sound I treasure. There is something special about those classic mixtapes. Those ones you spent hours agonising over to create. Those mixtapes a friend gave you or those mixtapes you stuck tape on in order to record over a pre-existing but now out-of-favour soundtrack. There is something so much more powerful about hitting that big old play button, feeling the roll of the tape, feeling the weight of the device. I get it, things have moved on, technology has progressed. I don’t keep the walkman out of necessity… and I don’t keep it because I don’t understand or appreciate the devices that have taken its place. I keep it because the experience of listening to music via the walkman is something that I haven’t been able to replicate. The purposeful choosing of a cassette tape, the ‘locked-in’ nature of my music. Yes, I love choices. Yes, I love serendipity, but, sometimes I just want the experience. The journey in this instance is more important than the destination.
It isn’t just my choice of musical apparatus that I take time with. If the sloth were a modern man, I’d be it. I’m not lazy, I’m purposefully slow. So much of our life is a rush, so much of our life is about getting from A to B. So much of our life is about ignoring what we see or not even acknowledging what’s around us. I take the opposite route, I want to see every little thing and I want to take my time with it. If there is a shop window that I like, I may stop and take a picture. I may press pause on my walkman and listen to the sounds that accompany the image, if I’m moved to do so. I may also write down my feelings, my thoughts, my observations. People often ask me why, they wonder if i’ll ever look at that image again or read those notes again and i explain to them: it isn’t about whether I’ll make use of those things in the future. It is about me appreciating them in the present.
Last week my friend Augustus had an impromptu end of lockdown gathering of six in the park. It was to celebrate his birthday and it was due to start at 1pm. Everyone was tasked with bringing a portable barbecue, something to put on it and of course some beverages of our choice. I left my house at midday. It was local to me but I wanted to pick up some sweetcorn from the greengrocers. I thought it would be nice to turn up with a huge bag of sweetcorn for everyone. From my perspective, a barbecue without sweetcorn is not a barbecue at all. The sun came out on my way and the trees were almost glistening.
I took the long route to the high-street via the skatepark to take some pictures. Recently, I’ve become obsessed with the silhouettes and shadows created at the skatepark. I’d not had the opportunity to see it at midday, when the sun is at its highest point and so I took the opportunity to spend some time in their presence. The pictures i got were outstanding, the sun the perfect backdrop. There was a girl there, I’d never seen her before. She had on the coolest V-neck burgundy vest. I have something similar. Although we didn’t know each other, we clearly shared a fondness for retro clothing. She asked me about my walkman and told me she still had a few tapes she couldn’t bring herself to throw away. I told her never to throw them away and wished her luck for the remainder of the day. Before I left, I asked if I could take her picture, she obliged. I handed her back the polaroid I took of her with my name and number on the back, just in case she wanted to borrow my walkman sometime.
As I walked away, I reminded myself why I take those extra moments, that additional stop on my tour of life. Not to meet girls, although that is an occasional bonus, but to give myself the opportunity to see something new, to add an experience to my life, to have a perspective I didn’t have before. Yes, I need to go to the greengrocer, and yes, I have a barbecue to attend… but No, I’m not in a rush and Yes, I want to take my time. Because I’m lucky enough to have time and I want to squeeze as many moments into that time as possible. I can’t do that if I only have my destination in mind. I’m purposeful with it too, I want the lack of haste in my step to be apparent. After the skate park I wandered through some cobbled streets I’d never really come across before. There was a house with a door knocker so grand it looked like it belonged on a movie set. I took a picture and I left a note for the owner, telling them I appreciated their door knocker and how cool I thought it was. I’ll never know, but I hope they appreciated the sentiment and didn’t mind the intrusion. I arrived at the park at 2.30pm with a bag full of sweetcorn and shouts of ‘Finally, here he is!’. I realised quickly that I was exactly where I wanted to be at, exactly the moment I wanted to be there. Arriving at that barbecue I felt content, I felt ready and I was really looking forward to spending the rest of that afternoon surrounded by good people and good conversation – who knows, I may take a picture or two as well.